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A Case of Mistaken Identity

Please enjoy a sample of short story fiction, which is probably the most exciting undertaking for me. I love writing psychological thrillers in the style of Ruth Rendell, one of my most beloved English authors.


Hogarth sits at his desk in the fading light of a gloomy March afternoon. He twists a lock of his dark, unruly hair around and around his index finger, every now and again poking a piece in his mouth and gently gnawing at the greasy ends.

“Why”, he wonders, then aloud “Why why WHY”!?? He stares intently at a small square of pink paper lying open on the desk. Small neat handwriting reads:

We’re not meant for each other. I want to play the field again, want to test the waters with other men. I do hope we can remain friends however. See you around sometime...!
Hugs...no hard feelings?

Friends?? See you around?? Play the field?? What’s the sodding girl getting on about, Hogarth wonders? She can’t be serious.

He pushes himself away from the cluttered desk and limps painfully to the small dirty window that over-looks the concrete school-yard below. Children, he frowns, everywhere...kiddies, sodding bloody kiddies. Running, shouting, screaming, laughing, leering! He despises them. Every bloody one of them. “Could kill them all” he thinks assuredly, “Yep, could kill the lot of them and not lose a single minute of sleep afterwards”. But of course he wouldn’t. He couldn’t. Harmless daydreaming never hurt anyone did it?

“What is Esther on about?”

He cannot get that stupid little note out of his mind. She can’t be breaking up with me. She can’t be doing that when just last night, last bloody night, she had lain right there on his bed, arms and legs wrapped tightly around him. Moaning and thrashing about, whispering how much she loved him, wanted him, needed him..for Gods sake! And now this..this little piece of pink writing paper lying so innocently on the desk. Lying amongst the stained tea-cups, over-flowing ashtrays, stale bits of cake, crumpled paper, pens, nails and what-not. He had cleared a little space in which to lay Esther’s note while he read it.  He had anticipated something quite different, certainly not this, this short, cruel note!

“She’s having me on”!, he suddenly brightens. That’s the only reasonable, sensible explanation.

He looks across the room towards the desk. The light is fading fast. Dark soon, he thinks. The pink paper glows ominously, like a beacon, taunting him to read it again, if he dare.

Slowly, holding his bad leg, he leaves the window and makes his way back to the desk. Glancing at the alarm clock on the nightstand next to his small, lonely bed, he sees it’s just after three in the afternoon. Good, those bloody, bleeding kids will be going home soon; Time for a reviving hot cup of tea before he starts work. Ten years, he scowls, ten years of rowdy, spoiled, loud brats that I clean up after every night. His mouth curls into an ugly pout of disgust at the very thought of it.

“Apartment included” he remembers the ad saying. “Apartment”, he grimaces, “rat’s hole is more like it”. Hogarth hates it here, hates this small, dark, smelly hole of a room. He hates his stupid job too; cleaning up after all those rich brats, cleaning up their stupid mess. Some nights were worse than others. Some nights it only took a few hours, a bit of sweeping and tidying, that’s all. But then there were the dirty nights as he called them. Piss, vomit, even bloody shit for Gods sake! He shudders as he turns on the gas ring and fills the tea kettle at the tiny chipped and stained enamel sink.

Later, sipping his tea, nibbling at a bit of stale raisin cake, his thoughts turn back to Esther. Three weeks, three whole weeks he’s been seeing Esther, his first real girlfriend. He worships her. She isn’t much to look at he admits, but then, neither is he. Munching a bit of cake, he remembers fondly her short blond hair, round cherub-like face and pleasingly plump, stout little body. Like a fat little chick-a-dee, he smiles, sipping his warm tea.

His smile fades as he catches sight of the note glimmering palely on the desk. Should he call her? No. Go around to see her? Shove the idiotic note into her laughing, plump little birds face and demand an explanation, as well as an apology?  Surely this is one her jokes.  Just like her to pull something like this! She’s always having her friends on, he realized. ‘A bit of fun’ is what she calls it.

That’s another thing, he frowns. Friends. She has too many of them. Maybe one of them put her up to this. Cruel buggers! Just like them too, he thinks. He hates her friends just as he knows they cannot stand him right back. Laughing at him, teasing him!

“How’s the leg Hoggie old chap?” “Bit stiff today is it old top?”

What the devil do they know about his leg? Were they there when his no-good stepfather threw the hot fat at him, on his fifth birthday? Were any of them around to see the rage in his stepfathers’ eyes just because he had cried a little for more birthday presents? He was five years old for Gods sake! A baby. His poor beaten-down mum had tried to intervene but had been shoved clear across the room for her efforts, like she was nothing. And then the pain and his step-father telling him to shut the hell up and close his bleeding gob or he’d close it for him. Oh yeah, he’d close it for him alright, just like the monster straight from hell that his stepfather was. Later his mother had rocked him, saying over and over how sorry she was. “Sorry?” What the hell did that mean? Sorry didn’t save his leg. The doctors had had to operate, and then more operations followed, painful year after painful year. He’d never walk right again they said. Always have a limp and an ugly, red withered stump for a right leg.

Lighting a fag, Hogarth throws the rest of his tea down the sink and switches off the small lamp next to his bed. Time to go to work he thinks drearily. Time enough to deal with Esther later. He’ll spruce himself up after work and mosey on over to her rooming house. Hopefully, she’ll be alone. Hopefully her sodding friends would be gone for the evening by then.

Holding his fag between his strong, white teeth, he painfully pulls on the heavy grey overalls he’s required to wear as night janitor. Maybe it’ll be a good night. Just a few garbage pails to empty and a bit of mopping and sweeping. Unceremoniously squishing his cigarette out in one of the many overflowing ashtrays scattered around his room, Hogarth opens the door and limps out into the chilly March evening.


Slumped against the cold rough steel of a streetlamp, Hogarth lights a fag. Drawing the pungent smoke deep into his lungs, he thinks, another rotten shift over with. Thank God! At least tonight it was easy going. Nothing messy, no bodily fluids to mop up, causing him to gag into his handkerchief. Taking another huge drag of his cigarette, he stares gloomily at the lighted windows of Esther’s rented flat.

She’s home alright, but not alone. There are two cars in the driveway he’s noticed, spitefully. Now what? What next? What to do, God, what to do now? If she had been alone, away from the bleeding cows she calls her friends, then he would have marched right up there and confronted Esther with her crazy note. But she’s not alone. The rooming house is full tonight. Full of all those silly cows!

Throwing down his fag and stamping it into the pavement in frustration, he shoves his hands into his overalls pockets and walks painfully on. Just a little stroll, clear my head a bit, he reassures himself. Maybe come up with a solution to this confusing predicament he reluctantly found himself in since Esther’s had note arrived. Something to straighten everything out, clear the air, and before long, Esther would be moaning with pleasure in his very bed again, maybe even tonight!

Suddenly his fingers curl around the cold steel of a gun nestled deep in his pocket. “For protection” he recalls the head-master telling him. “Lonely out here at night, you never know, prowlers and all that sort of thing”. “Better safe than sorry”, the tall gaunt man had chuckled, pressing the small gun into Hogarth’s hand. Of course he’d never use it, not even if there was a need to use it. And there hadn’t been a need, not from burglars, prowlers, nor from anything even remotely similar. Just long lonely evenings and tea and fags and of course Esther, sweet little chick-a-dee Esther.

Hogarth frowns again and turns back towards Esther’s flat. He has to know!! What did she mean? “Play the field”, for Gods sake! He has to ask her face to face. Look into her big blue eyes and say “Listen here Esther ducks, what’s all this nonsense then?” “Who put you up to this luv?” “Tell me who really wrote this horrid note; not you, surely?” “We’re mates, right?”

This little scenario gathers strength in Hogarths mind and fills him with confidence. Yes, that’s the ticket. That’s what he’ll do, and Esther, sweet Esther, fat little chick-a-dee Esther will throw back her wonderful head and laugh, put her plump arms around him and tell him it was all a big big joke! Just a bit of fun, and hadn’t he realized that right from the start?! A joke, Hoggie my sweet, a little prank that’s all. No harm done, what? Just a bit of fun to keep you on your toes.

Slowly, labourously, Hogarth walks up to the rooming house door. With a shrewd grin, just before knocking, he decides to have a peep through the little window next to the side of the wooden door. “Better be safe than sorry”, the headmasters voice echoes inside his head.

Peeping through the grimy window pane he catches sight of a couple on the little sofa at the far end of the room. ‘What’s this then?’, he mouths slowly, gently wiping away a small space so as to see better. He recognizes Esther’s blonde head, thrown back, gasping with pleasure. There’s a bloke on top of her. What the devil is he doing to her? And then, as realization dawns in Hogarth’s brain, a cold sweat breaks on his high, pasty forehead.

Esther, his Esther, in there with a bloody strange bloke, doing..doing...THAT! Doing what she did with him only last night! So it’s true. The bleeding, bloody, sodding note isn’t a joke. She meant every last word she’d written in it! After everything she’d told him, how she’d loved him, needed him, his Esther..in there on that couch, doing THAT  with another bloke!

He can’t think. His hands are shaking so badly they resemble strange alien appendages, rather than ordinary human extremities. Again he feels the cold steel of the pistol resting against his withered, aching leg.  Slowly, methodically he slips the gun from his pocket. Easing the tiny window up a scant few inches, he pokes the barrel through the opening and points directly at the couple writhing and squirming on the sofa. Something about Esther’s hair seems to bother him, but not enough to make him stop and think about it properly, clearly.. Something about the color of her hair is just not right, but he fails to let it register fully in his tormented brain. It would prove to be the biggest mistake he’d ever make.

Then he’s squeezing the trigger and the noise is deafening. The couple on the sofa are jumping about now alright, he thinks satisfyingly, but not from pleasure, oh no not from  pleasure. Suddenly there’s just a hollow clicking noise coming from the gun and Hogarth stares down at it stupidly. Click, click, click. He throws the gun down in defeat. Nothing more than a child’s toy once it’s ammunition was all used up.

Someone is shouting now, then the sound of running feet, lights being switched on across the street. All Hogarth can think now is to escape. Run, hide, go go go...! But not before someone shouts out...”Hey you, you there!” “Hogarth isn’t it...from the school?” “Say, what you are up to?!” “Come back here!!” “Hogarth!”

But Hogarth is running, running like never before. Even his bad leg doesn’t slow him down. For Gods sake, he can’t even feel it! Just back to my room, he thinks. It’s safe there. They won’t find me there.

Suddenly he slows down. His breath is coming ragged and fast. It hurts him. Too many fags he thinks, out of the blue; silly to think of that now. Then he’s home. There’s his room, just up the stairs, in the door and he’ll be safe. Grabbing the railing he hauls himself up, step by step. Now he feels his leg by God, now it’s screaming at him. He opens the door.

Sitting on his bed, smoking a fag, round cherub face all rosy and plump, is Esther.

“Hi there ducks”, she chirps. “Stepped out for a stroll are we?” “I see you got my little note.” “I hope you’re not angry.” She stretches luxuriously on his bed as stares and stares.
“Esther”, he mumbles. “Est...Esther?”

“Just a little prank Hoggie darlin, a little scheme I cooked up to worry you a little.” “You know, make you a bit jealous, what?” “Not mad are ya?”

What was Esther on about? What was Esther doing here? He’d just seen her with someone else back at the rooming house where he had.... God in Heaven, what had he done?! Esther was still prattling on about something or other, laughing and smoking and wriggling about on his bed like a naughty little house wren making a love nest.

“I knew you’d understand Sweetness, so I thought I’d come round tonight and set things straight.” “Anyhow, my sis is staying at the house for a bit, and she and her greasy boyfriend are probably going at it like a couple of unhinged rabbit’s right about now.” “So you just come on over here Hoggie ducks, and give me a big old wet kissy-kiss!”

Hogarth still has not spoken. He makes no sense of what Esther is saying. Esther’s dead, isn’t she? He had just shot her, hadn’t he?

“Hey, Hoggie, somethin the matter?” Esther’s face is changing now. She’s not laughing and gay anymore. As she leaves the bed and starts across the room towards Hogarth, there is a loud pounding on the door. It’s more than just pounding; someone is really battering to get in.

“Open up!” “Police!” a booming voice shouts. “We know you’re in there Hogarth Pickering, and we know what you did!!”

Hogarth just stands and stares and stares at Esther or Esther’s ghost, not making a sound, not moving, barely breathing.... as the police break down his door.

Copyrighted and Written by Elizabeth Earle

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